Sometimes the unplanned days are the best and so it proved with a last min impromptu Saturday afternoon jaunt to Shipley .
Best laid plans to be good, stay in ,update blog and tidy house were scuppered by England’s agonising defeat in the RL World Cup final , when fresh air and beers were judged the order of the day to get over the disappointment . Suffice to say a decision much welcomed by the Bruce .who’s enthusiasm for probably one of the best games of rugby league you’ll see was evident from the off !
Following the Aire Valley Corridor ,Bingley and Saltaire had already been given the 4Paws treatment so progressing onwards,the next town up the valley Shipley was logically our next port of call . Now it be fair , Shipley ….not exactly the buzzing metropolis of the big cities , none of the charm of say Skipton or the history of afore mentioned Saltaire , usually it is just a place we pass through on the way to Leeds , but in its defence it at least has the Leeds Liverpool Canal running through it and we’re a sucker for a good canal walk ….so Shipley it was ..
Further research via the wonders of CAMRA’s excellent What Pub Guide and Keighley Bus Company’s onboard wi-fi brought even more joy as we discovered the Saltaire Brewery’s Onsite Tap was indeed mutt friendly and located canal side just outside the town ,getting better and better ,urban waterside rambles and Saltaire Blonde one of my favs in copious amounts , what’s not to like ?
One of the first things you are drawn to in the canal basin at Saltaire is not the imposing Victorian Mill , or the intricately painted barges but a large green metal octopus sat on a wall end ridiculously out of place .I’ve often wondered why it was there but a walk a few hundred meters towards Shipley revealed its origins .
The Aire Sculpture Trail was created 4 years ago and has 15 fun bits of artwork along its mile(ish ) route to the far side of Shipley .Diverting from our original plan plan we decided to give it a go and what a great surprise. Ok so the scenery itself might not be outstanding running alongside the River Aire through a few footpaths that could do with a good litter pick but the sculptures make up for that .
Usually trails like this are full of very ‘WTF Is that meant to be’ pieces that no doubt some arty farty types will tell you have hidden depths , whereas these little beauties don’t take themselves too seriously ,think more Wallace and Gromit than Henry Moore ! I’ve included pics of a couple but no more wouldn’t want to spoil the surprise !
The Trail is a nice diversion but just be aware that parts of the route does include some unfenced areas along the fast running river so leads are a must.
Back from Baildon Bridge ,a ten minute stroll on the Canal out of Shipley took us to the Saltaire Brewery and its Brewery Tap, directly accessible straight off the towpath, A decent outside space with benches and tables ideal for more temperate days , complements a no frills interior in the Tap itself again with 3 or 4 long tables and bench seating makes for a convivial atmosphere that encourages conversation between drinkers
The usual initial enquires about the their dog policy lead us to being directed towards two tins on the bar top ,Quality Street for human guests and treats for the canine variety- result !
Beers included a full range from the Brewery , some special one off brews ( I’m happy to be a Beverage Guinea Pig !) several guests and lots of different bottles . The Tap also includes a small shop selling Salts finest both in traditional glass and in DIY small kegs and appeared to be doing a roaring trade .
Indeed our table companions were having a quick pit stop after travelling 20 miles to pick up supplies for replicating the Salts Brewery experience at home and we were introduced to Bonny their 8 month old border collie who took an immediate shine to Stuart . Unfortunately Bruce had his best old man head and was suitably unimpressed with the antics of a mere pup, happy to show his disapproval from the safety of my knee .
One pint of blonde down and it was only right to try the seasonal ‘White Christmas ‘ and make mental note to self to come back with transport for supplies when we are with transportation.
Bonny and her owners left to return to Heckmondwike and were replaced by a couple of hardy walkers who had treked in from Leeds on the tow path and were staying in Bingley that night , Much fussing of Bruce and swapping of some to be pursued pub / walk recommendations followed before we went our separate ways conscious of the ever fading December light on the canal bank and the ever increasing chance of a watery end to our visit
Back in Shipley we made our way to the Fox , a single room ‘micropub’ style place close to Shipley Station, with possibly the best website I’ve seen for a pub , their 360 degree online pub tour is just brilliant .
We hadn’t even got our drinks before Bruce was accosted by a lad sat at the bar who to be fair had probably had just one over the edge .He’d just had his elderly Border T put to sleep in the last week and the hurt was obviously still there but he could see a lot of his beloved pooch in our little hooligan .When another lad came in with another terrier , we spent a happy half hour swapping stories of our own ‘little s**ts’ ( it’s something that we’ve noticed frequently on our travels that us owners of our pugnacious little fluff balls tend to stick together ! )
Not sure about the Christmas Tunes as background music in the Fox though the incomparable ‘Fairytale of New York ‘ did suit the beery cheery atmosphere on a cold December afternoon . Beers good , company’s ace in a pub that doesn’t appear to take itself too seriously ,love the place and a great end to an unexpectedly fine afternoon out.